“1. He makes snide jokes at your expense. Although boorish and rude, the occasional zinger isn’t an automatic ticket to the Abusers Hall of Fame.
But aiming poison barbs in your direction and then brushing it off – like “Can’t you take a joke?” – shows a lack of respect. “It’s a sign of emotional distancing, which can very quickly turn into abuse,” says Gilda Carle, Ph.D., (aka Dr. Gilda), an advice columnist on Match.com and author of He’s Not All That (Collins).
Emotional abuse can become physical with very little notice. Just ask Aimee, 41, of San Francisco, who was in an abusive relationship for eight years – while working at a battered women’s shelter! It was so subtle, says Aimee (whose name was changed to protect her privacy). “It went from unhealthy to pathological in such tiny increments that I accepted every little increment completely.”
By the time it crossed over into physical abuse, “I couldn’t name it. I was in absolute denial,” she says.
2. The relationship is on the fast track. He’s infatuated with you and is already talking commitment. But slow down. A light-speed lothario often has something to hide, says relationship therapist Joyce Morley-Ball, Ed.D. (aka Dr. Joyce).
If he’s quick to say “I love you” and soon makes plans for moving in, getting married and having a baby, he may be trying to lock up the relationship before you can see what he’s really about.
He knows you’re less likely to leave him after you get involved, she says.
3. Nothing is ever his fault. That speeding ticket? The cop had it in for him. The job he lost? The boss had a grudge against him. The promotion he didn’t get? The woman who did must have been sleeping with the boss. Maybe your guy has the worst luck ever. Or consider this: The man who never takes responsibility for any of his actions may be quick to blame you when he ultimately loses control of his temper – and his fists. “If you hadn’t done _____, I wouldn’t have hit you.”
If he can get you to believe it’s your fault, he’s off the hook in his mind. So take notice of his blame list – you could be next.
4. You’re always making excuses for his behavior. He’s tired. He had a hard week. He’s under a lot of pressure. He’s only like that when he’s had too much to drink. Sure, these excuses may explain the rare social gaffe and could, in fact, be true. But if you’re regularly trying to explain away rude, violent or disrespectful behavior, you could be emotionally abused.
“There’s this wall of denial that we put up when we’re in a relationship, and we all do it to some extent,” Sugg says. “But you shouldn’t have to explain away someone else’s behavior.”
It’s just like a slap in the face, she says. “How many of those slaps would you take?”
5. You bend over backward so he doesn’t get upset.
Are you walking on eggshells because of his hair-trigger temper that erupts for everything big (a blown deal) to small (his beer warm)?